Christmas Blues and Winter White

As beautiful as Christmastime may be, nothing looks more debauched the day after than the empty stocking half-hidden under the couch, or the faded piece of torn wrapping paper blown into the fence row.  Even the handmade wooden crèche has collected a shabby coat of dust.

In winter, through the nude trees, nothing is hidden.  Trash cans blown over by the wind.  The side of the house that needs a fresh coat of paint.  A forgotten junk car.

So, snowfall is welcome.  It blankets the stark greys and browns with an iridescent coat.  Those miraculous little flakes drift through the air and knowing that each one of them is a unique work of nature’s art excuses the urge to just simply sit and stare out the window.

A house, a yard, a street blanketed in snow is quiet.  The dogs don’t bark, the children don’t yell, the cars do not whiz by.  Even the noisy diesel roar of the school bus is absent. 

The snow cleanses us, it isolates us, and it almost demands reflection – like Robert Frost and his snowy night.  Temperatures will rise, the snow will melt and be replaced with dirty-looking slush.  There’s still much stark winter to  get  through before the buds bring the promise of spring.  So, fill your eyes while you can with the beauty of snow.

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How I Lost Part of Myself

Designed by Ruth Powell

 

I wrote this article awhile back when I lost weight.  With the holiday season coming up, I thought we could all use some nutritional inspiration.  Take heart — even my diet guru says she gains around seven pounds every Christmas.  You just have to correct that after the fuss is over!  Read on: 

This time last year I weighed sixty pounds more than I do today. I gave up hope that I’d ever be thin again, no more admirers, no more double-takes. I’d given up hope of ever again becoming incensed by whistling construction workers. It wasn’t a happy truth, but I grew to accept that my shelf life had expired and I’d been taken off the market. I had the usual waistline and hip issues. What surprised me was how seriously fat is attracted to breasts as well. Mine were a living science project on gravity. Large breasts make a great catcher’s mitts for spilled food and like a scarlet letter, all my shirts bore stains. My wide behind was a billboard that said, “I have absolutely no self control.” It didn’t help that all my friends are thin. At parties, like an illicit lover I tried to act blasé about my lust for whatever sweets were served, but I’m sure my friends noticed me surreptitiously going back for seconds, thirds, fourths. It took a lot of work to haul around that much fat and I was embarrassed by the savage shade of red my face would turn at the least exertion. I was even more mortified when my face dripped sweat from every pore, forehead to chin. On the plus side, if I got thirsty, I could just suck liquid off my upper lip. I never really thought the whole diet thing would work. Only in hindsight can I even own up to being fat. I assiduously maintained plausible denial by shunning mirrors and other reflective surfaces and refusing to pose for any family pictures unless there was someone fatter in front of me. You can tell it’s me in photos. I’m the elbow on the far left. The problem with denial-even those most meticulously maintained-is that it all goes up like smoke if you let your guard down even for a minute. My lapse happened at my doctor’s office when I thoughtlessly caught a glance of my chart while the nurse wrote down my weight. It was careless and I knew better. I had not memorized every inch of ceiling above that scale by being careless. Denial was no longer plausible. I told my doctor I was sick and tired of being fat and was ready to do something about it. I think she believed me just a little less than I believed myself. I’ll be darned if the diet thing did work. The first sign came while showering one night about two weeks into my diet. Reaching around to wash my back side, I realized suddenly that I could SEE my back side. There it was. Just a little twist of the waist and there it was. For a minute I thought I’d fallen into a parallel universe, but then I remembered that I’d been dieting and getting smaller was what was supposed to happen when one diets. I’d heard the stories, but never put any stock in them. Things snowballed after that. One little taste of victory made me voracious for more. It was like Christmas Day every day, except for the days when I felt like I’d won the lottery. Lest I be guilty of overselling, not everything about my new small-sized perspective was good. Being able to look down on myself past the top of my belly I realized that while I was as yet free of grey hairs on my head, I had silvered up in other areas. Still, it was worth it to be smaller. Shortly after the shower revelation, I was zoning out in the kitchen while my husband and son argued and noticed my size sixteen J Jill skort was kind of baggy. Out of natural curiously (or perhaps it was the show-off in me) without unzipping or unbuttoning, I pulled down on the skort. It came all the way off. Glory be! I was thrilled, but my son was somewhat alarmed. Mama needed some new clothes, baby. New clothes, indeed. I needed new soup to nuts. Bras, panties, pajamas. Even my wedding ring got too big. Only by going to Wal-Mart was I able clothe myself through size twelve, size ten, and size eight. Size eight was where I figured I’d top out. That’s where I was before I got fat. But my new destiny was revealed to me in a dressing room at the mall by a size six pair of blue jeans. Second only to the size six jeans, the most exhilarating purchase was a new bathing suit. No bikini-I am a sensible forty-something lady after all. But I did get an appropriately modest two piece with skirt and a supportive bodice. It revealed just a small strip of my very pale and newly-flat belly. Like my daddy used to say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. People congratulated me and called my weight loss an accomplishment, but I feel like I lost weight in spite of myself. I never in a million years believed it would actually happen. It dawned on me that there might be other heretofore impossible things I could do. There were, especially physical things like chasing a Frisbee, sliding gracefully between chairs in crowded restaurants, turning backward somersaults, to name a few. The best impossible thing I’ve done wasn’t physical, though. By far the best thing I’ve done is letting other people read my writing. People often ask me for dieting advice. They want to know “how I did it.” Then, usually, the person tells me all the reasons they could never do those things. After awhile, I got tired of listening to excuse lists and began to feel a little self-righteous. I’m trying to sidle off that high horse. Most of my friends and family have gotten used to the new me and have stopped wanting to talk about diets. I’m settling into the new me, too. Maybe I’m almost back to being just me. I’ve kept the weight off so far. But, I swear, my thighs are looking

Refocusing on the Art

One of my gifty jewelry boxes available on ruthsartsandletters.etsy.com

 

It’s cyber Monday.  The Christmas season is upon us, whether we are ready or not.  (Personally, this past year went by entirely too fast, but that’s another thing altogether.)  The thing is, I did a couple of craft shows this fall, so I worked like a demon to crank out stuff I thought would sell well as Christmas gifts.  But, I overdo everything.  I made way too many cards and ornaments and jewelry boxes, and even worse, the work – and the holiday preparations – stopped being fun.  

It was time to refocus my efforts.  I reminded myself why I’m doing this — how good it feels to create something that others find beautiful or evocative.  The best compliment I ever got was from a young woman who told me my collages were like treasure hunts — you kept finding little things hidden here and there.  I love being able to create meaning for people — or more precisely, helping people create meaning for themselves.

So, it’s back to the artistry and away from giftable gadgets.  I decided to spend the holiday dabbling in something new — encaustic art.  I’ve ordered some supplies and look forward to experimenting and learning.  This may not be proper proceedure, but I like to experiment a little first, before I learn actual techniques because it frees me up to see all the possibilities.

Once this decision was made, that glorious feeling came back.   I don’t know that my encaustic work will be masterpiece-ful.  But the process of learning it will be.  Plus, Christmas can be Christmas again!

What to Do and Not Do at a Craft Festival

I’m no longer a craft show virgin.  I did my first show last weekend in Nashville.  Most of this week has been recuperative.  There is a lot of physical work involved in doing a show.  Everything has to be priced and labeled and packed up, then brought to the festival, unpacked, and displayed.  Then there’s the money thing – you must have money to make change and you must have money to each crappy festival food because you forgot to pack something healthy. 

It was freezing cold and rainy on Saturday and hardly anyone showed for the festival.  We vendors – troopers that we are — trolled each other’s booths in between rain showers and complained about how our hands were too cold to work properly.  Sunday was better, but by then we were all worn out from Saturday.

For all those festival goers out there, I have a few tips for booth etiquette:

*Never look over an artist’s wares and state, “You have too much time on your hands.”

*Never tell a collage artist that you and your mother used to decopauge stuff when you were a kid.

*Never congratulate an artist for having figured out a useful purpose for Guatamalan Worry Dolls (or any other small and colorful item the artist scoured the internet and flea markets to find.)

 *When examining carefully altered tins, never say, “Are these Altoids tins?”

*Never tell an artist who was proud of finding a lot of genuine cigar boxes for a really good price that you recall with you could get cigar boxes for free.

*Never ask an artist if she can re-cut a picture frame to make a light switch plate.

 

Lest I give the impression that the festival was not a positive experience, here is some advice about what to do at a festival:

*Do ask the artist if there’s a story behind a piece.

*Do tell an artist that her art is like a treasure hunt because you’re always finding something new hidden in a piece.

*If you’re a kid, do ask an artist if you could do art like that.  They will love giving you hints and incouragement.

*Do engage the artist in conversations about the artistic and creative process.  Get their card. E-mail them or call them after the festival and make a new friend.

*If you are another vendor, do quietly offer the newbie advice about interacting with potential customers.

*Do tell an artist she does great work, even if you’re not going to buy a thing.  It’s amazing how much compliments are valued by artists!

So, as all you artists get ready for the holiday season – and the endless parade of craft and arts festivals that go with it – may your weather be fair and your customers polite!

Etsy is a Great Place to Shop

Red Dress in the Wind

Red Dress in the Wind

 

This piece was the first item sold in my Etsy shop. 

If  you haven’t already visited Etsy.com, it is a great place to find original handmade arts and crafts.  Anything from soaps to purses to handbound journals abound on this great site.  Check it out for Christmas shopping!  Your gifts will be one-of-a-kind.